Apprentices in the school of skilled trades in unique position, to start classes on Nov. 27
There’s one group of George Brown students that won’t be hitting the classroom on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Skilled trades apprentices will be returning to the classroom one week later than other students, on Monday, Nov. 27.
Bryan Mulveney, the student support representative for apprentices, is tasked with the job of getting the word out. His eyes are red, and his phone is ringing off the hook with questions from trades apprentices who received the email late this morning that the start of their classes would be delayed. He patiently talks to each apprentice calling, listening to each one with their own unique situation:
“I’m overwhelmed,” Mulveney admits. “But the reason I say I’m overwhelmed that is that I consider it a positive, with apprentices its more than just education this is their career that we’re talking about. I put myself in those apprentices’ shoes.”
As of Monday, Nov. 20, information for apprentices on the delayed start date is not on the main George Brown page for classes restarted, but is buried at the bottom of the FAQ section. This appears to be adding to the burden on the apprentice and skilled trades office to respond to queries one-by-one. However, all the apprentices that The Dialog spoke to have received the email informing them of the change in schedule by Monday evening.
Denise Devlin-Li is the chair of the school of apprentices and skilled trades. She said that initially they had thought they could re-start the program on Tuesday with the other George Brown courses, but after consulting with faculty and taking into account the fact that many trades students have returned to work at jobsites across the province, they realized that they needed to give the students and faculty more lead time.
Trades apprentices are both students and workers, they complete several years worth of hours of work experience then write an exam to get a professional licence, attending George Brown periodically for short eight-to-10 week programs during the course of their training. Devlin-Li points out that they often have mortgages and children and car payments, with their studies at George Brown as only one component of their lives.
The trades programs involve co-ordination with several bodies, from employment insurance, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, the Ontario College of Trades, colleges such as George Brown, union training programs like the Joint Apprenticeship Council for the IBEW electrical workers union. Its a complex ecosystem of interrelated agencies, that has all been thrown off by the strike.
Employment Insurance responded to an media request from The Dialog on Nov. 10, replying that despite the strike “at the present time, the Commission continues to allow EI benefits for apprentices, and is monitoring the situation.”
Julia Wagner Brady is at her second stint at George Brown, in the 10-week intermediate electrical apprentice course. She said she stayed at home for over three weeks during the strike because her employer had booked her off for that time. She felt like she “my priority should be that I was available to go back to school at any moment. “
Finally though, Wagner Brady returned to work for a week and adjusted back to working the nightshift. But then she got an email that the teachers had been legislated back-to-work and classes were starting Tuesday. She thought that they were heading back to school on Tuesday with the other students, but then “my instinct was like, fuck you guys, I’m not just going to not show up to work.”
She avoided telling anyone at her work anything about going back to school on Tuesday, telling herself that she would only tell her boss on Monday night. “It’s a good thing too!” she said, receiving the email on Monday afternoon that her classes would not resume until the next week.
Brady is careful though, not to appear to hard-done by,”we’re a privileged group where we get paid to go to school and everything is covered for us,” she said.
What does bother Brady, as a unionized electrical worker, is that her instructors-licensed electricians-were legislated back to work.
“If we had any cojones, we unionized apprentices would walk out of classes in solidarity with the faculty.”